I had found out about Biskaya a few months ago, and the publisher was so kind as to send me a copy. What I remembered from the blurb was that it was about a black woman living in Berlin. I didn’t look further into the book as I wanted to experience the book without too much information about the story.
This book is #ownvoices.
Biskaya is a story about trying to fit into a society that doesn’t want to fit you in, that doesn’t want to give you a space. It’s a story about the impact that German colonialism had on the colonised people. It’s a story about how societal expectations shape people’s lives. It’s a story about finding out what you want to be in life, do you want to be the person that people will accept or do you want to be the person who you are.
Tue, the main character, is a black woman. She has an eating disorder. She’s mentally ill. She’s bisexual. She had two fathers and one mother. The deuteragonist, Dwayne, is a black man. He is gay. He is femme. Both of them are from Biskaya (a fictional country, though the region itself exists in the real worth), but they came to Germany at different ages.
I was quite taken aback by this story and the writing style around it. As you might know, a lot of words in German are in a gender binary, and people have only slowly been adapting the language to be inclusive of all genders. This book used inclusive language. What I also found beautiful was that Tue’s personality was reflected by the writing style. She is a songwriter, and thus sometimes her feelings about certain situations are put down in songtexts.
The book tackles various types of oppression: racism, queerantagonism, sexism, and ableism. This book shows intersectionality. It doesn’t only talk about it, but it shows why intersectionality is importants. It shows that people are not just one thing, we are multi-faceted. The people in this book are complex. They are not just marginalised in one way, but most people are marginalised in numerous ways.
What I loved about this book is that it’s not written to be educational. It’s not written for those who are priviledged. Certain aspects, such as the non-existence of reverse racism, aren’t explained, they’re just mentioned and either you understand it or you have to look it up.
Just in case you won’t be reading the book, because you can’t read German or it just isn’t your type of book, I’d like to recommend that you listen to this song, which is mentioned in the book: Fremd in eigenen Land (Advanced Chemistry) (Engl. Stranger in my own country). Someone translated it into English here. I hadn’t heard the song before reading this book, and it really spoke to me.
If you can read German, I seriously suggest you try this book. It’s amazing. I never expected to find such a well-written book in German. The language is not problematic. It’s diverse. It’s intersectional. And the story is moving, I really enjoyed my time with this book.
In my opinion, this book should be published in English.
This review is part of the German Diverse Books project (#DeutscheDiversityBücher). The book is available in German, Arabic and English.
Trigger warnings: self-harm, suicide, abuse in hospitals, forced coming out (that is called out in the book), eating disorder.
Have you read Biskaya?
„Biskaya“ ist ein afropolitaner Roman über das Leben von Schwarzen Menschen in Berlin. Die dreißigjährige Tue ist mit drei Elternteilen aufgewachsen und verdient heutzutage ihr Geld vor allem als Sängerin einer deutschsprachigen Indie-Band. Doch mit den anderen Bandmitgliedern hakt es und auch ihre WG wird Tue immer fremder, Ruhe findet sie allein bei ihrem besten Freund Matthew. Er ist die Familie, die es in ihrem Leben seit Jahren nicht mehr gegeben hat.
In ihrem neuen Roman vermittelt SchwarzRund ein Gefühl, wie es ist, Schwarz zu sein in einem Land von Weißen, ohne dieses Schwarzsein mit einer afrikanischen Region verbinden zu können. Pointiert schildert die Autor*in Tues Alltag zwischen diasporischen Lebensrealitäten, Psychiatrie und queerer Wahlfamilie.